Unsworn Industries sent a massive delegation to Alnarp the other day. We lectured, workshopped and exhibited at the annual Movium conference, this year themed “Life in the City”. Some 200 people who work with “everything between the buildings” - from landscape architects to cemetary caretakers - attended.
Following prominent speaker like Martha Schwartz Erik and Magnus sharpened their powerpoint to the max and delivered a snappy presentation on prototype-oriented city development. The key message: by making potential futures more visible, audible, and tangible they are possible to discuss and evaluate, also for non-professionals. If we are seriously working towards a citizen-dialogue within city-planning we need new “prototyping” formats. The Parascope and its sibling projects is one experiment in searching for such formats.
After a hearty lunch all participants were invited by Elisabet, Terje and Magnus to remain seated and get their hands dirty with pens, post-its and panoramas. The brief: turn the space outside the conference venue, “Bobos plats”, into a better meeting place. In one hour. The resulting panoramas were uploaded into a Parascope on-site for swift comparison. Thanks everyone for eagerly joining in!
Besides two Parascopes, we exhibited a fully functioning Megaphonebooth. Back from duty in Helsinki last summer the Megaphonebooth presents unexpected action spaces and new public communcation modes. It also proved a invaluable tool for the moderator to announce the upcoming lectures to espresso-busy, mingling conference-goers.
On 21 May 2009, the world’s first Desktop Olympic Games took place in Maribor, Slovenia. This premiere - carried out with due pomp and fanfare - was fuelled by the sweat from a 7-day, intensive, unsworn-academic interaction design workshop.
Desktop Olympics is an offshoot of the Olympic Summer and Winter Games. Just like the ancient Greeks turned their everyday objects and war tools (spears, discs) into props of olympic competition and play, Desktop Olympians reappropriate artefacts of our times for competitive and playful purposes. In Desktop Olympics, athletes compete with computer mice, qwerty keyboards and office computers in several, new disciplines, ranging from Notepad Fencing to Scroll Racing and Folder Wrestling.
During an intense week in and around Maribor´s old water tower, Unsworn Academy and nine participating students, from various design disciplines, formed the Desktop Olympic Committe. The committee was presented with the dauting tasks of
When the sweaty torch-bearer finally arrived it marked the beginning of the end of a week of hard work, sore keyboard-fingers and science friction:
It turned out to be a beautiful evening at Maribor´s main square:
The word design, from latin’s designare, has a threefold etymology: (1) to give shape, (2) to decipher, (3) to assign meaning. Most people think of design in the first sense and connect it to the production and shape-giving of new things. Interaction design brings a fresh perspective that is often more about creating rules and framing situations than adding new stuff to the world.
In Desktop Olympics this is taken to an extreme. Desktop Olympic disciplines are new “computer games” or sports, created without writing a single line of code. We assigned new meaning to contemporary operating systems, by redefining them as stadiums and the applications and icons as athletic props. Similarly by plugging in several USB keyboards and mice into the same computer, we reapproptiate existing interface peripherals into olympic tools.
Design in the Desktop Olympic sense is about crafting invitations and action spaces. In this workshop different invitations worked on several levels: communicating the sports to potential online athletes as well as creating and inviting to the public event in the main square of Maribor.
A pivotal moment in the workshop was when the participants literally stormed the post-it wall, grabbed the pens and promptly removed Unsworn Academy from the room. So far the workshop activities had been following a strict schedule but the students felt it high time to take over the rudder.
Of course, this is an educator´s dream. But it also made us question the workshop disposition. Failures are excellent learning opportunities. Had we kept the students in too tight a leash?
The pedagogic dilemma is also connected to a organisational dilemma, as the workshop was part of a public festival. Open, educational processes with plenty of room for mistakes are good for the students, while safeguarding a spectacular final outcome is important for the festival organisers, who need something nice to show to their sponsors and the public.
Respect to the Magdalena Festival, the Brain Working workshop, the Maribor mayors office, and Rotovž restaurant for supporting the event. Hats off for Ivica and Sara for super-smooth organising. Big hugs to our Olympic heroes: Sarah, Mia, Damir, Klemen, Spela, Ana, Dora, Oleg, Mirko.
After doing a inspiring presentation of his extensive research into Scifi interface at dconstruct 09 together with Nathan Shedroff, our old friend Chris Noessel went to Sweden to visit, decompress and relax for some days before returning to San Francisco. How well did that plan turn out? Not so much. Always industrious Unsworn Academy soon created a Mini-Conference of their own and convinced Chris to do the premiere presentation. The Show’s on tomorrow at 6PM, Tuesday, September 8, 2009.
This is what’ll happen:
Make It So explores how science fiction and interface design relate to each other. The authors have developed a model that traces lines of influence between the two, and use this as a scaffold to investigate how the depiction of technologies evolve over time, how fictional interfaces influence those in the real world, and what lessons interface designers can learn through this process. This investigation of science fiction television shows and movies has yielded practical lessons that apply to online, social, mobile, and other media interfaces.
Welcome everybody for presentation, snacks, small beers and small talk at the Unsworn Industries Headquarters!
I just received a video from Pata de Perro of Pixelazo that took me back two years in time and all the way back to Communa 13 in Medellín. Together with Åsa Ståhl Unsworn Academy hosted a crash course on making an audiovisual installation out of hacked keyboards, lots of metal junk and recorded sounds with memories from the rough(er) days of the neighbourhood.
Read more about Unsworn’s Colombian adventures here.
In a two-day workshop at the PixelIST festival in Istanbul Erik (Unsworn Academy) and Åsa (å+k and Malmö University) asked the participants: How to communicate, share, and distribute local knowledge in a digital and networked world?
In creating the workshop we started from Åsa’s previous attempts to learn how to drive in Istanbul, despite the fact that she was in Malmö:
From the official workshop description:
The workshop “How to drive in Istanbul” deals with the potentials and problems with translations of local knowledge into digital packages. A number of examples will be presented and a short exercises will be carried out before the students start working with the main brief. Through audio recordings of voices the participants will be asked to translate their record of local embodied knowledge into a format that fits the digital channels of communication. The workshop ends with a reflective discussion where everybody is expected to contribute with experiences and ideas of how these recorded learnings could be distributed via the Internet. What format is appropriate? Do we need a new format? What would it look like? What gets lost in the translations from oral, embodied story of local knowledge into edited sound clip – and from local sound clip to global knol?
Using a sound recorder, the participants were asked to capture sonic slices of local knowledge and then interpret and edit it into a short sound piece, accessible to the world. (Read the full workshop brief here.)
Listen and learn:
More sounds to be added here as they arrive in our mailbox…
A workshop is a learning situation. It demands planning and also a readiness for the unpredicted, since it involves people and people are unpredictable.
This workshop had some added challenges and ‘unpredictednesses’, such as last minute changes in the schedule.
It all started on the Wednesday with a presentation by E+å and some thought-provoking discussions that started off by Nathalie saying that there is control involved in recipes and manuals. It continued by a connection to the philosopher Cornelius Castoriadis, born in Constantinople (talking about local knowledge…) in 1922, who wrote in ‘The Imaginary Institution of Society’ about autonomy of people and our relation to laws. He articulated a difference in thinking, on the one hand, that laws are given by god and unchangeable and on the other hand that we are autonomous and that we can work on changing the laws gradually.
This workshop demanded the impossible: to make an instruction of something as complex as knowledge. And no matter what knowledge a description of it will always end up short of some aspect. Short of the situation, short of the body, short of the time, short of the place.
In comparing the workshop theme with the participants’ previous experiences of following tutorials on the web one person made the comment that “sometimes you miss steps”. Yes, it might be that simple!
Some students appeared on the second day saying that they were forced to go to the workshop. In trying to change that attitude into something that reflects a more self-driven approach to learning, we tried to make the students figure out what they are interested in themselves. One girl said Playstation. She went off to explore how to get to play on expert level on Guitar hero. When hearing the call for prayers we started to discuss how to train your voice to become a good muezzin? One participant suddenly remembered that her dad had been a muezzin (the person, so far always men, who call for prayers) at the age of 11. She decided to start by asking her dad and then continue by asking professionals that are doing it now. Another question arouse from an aching knee: “How to sit down without bending your knee?”
Other questions that were being worked with during the workshop were: How to make a flying carpet in Istanbul? How to love somebody you don’t love?
One less obvious ‘learning’ that can be made in a workshop like this is how to benefit from the others in the workshop group. When one participant said that she was always working alone, a challenge for her could be to collaborate while making the sound piece as a way of understanding local knowledge: to recognise that there are more resources in a group than in one individual.
bell hooks wrote a book in 1994 titled Teaching to Transgress. Education as the Practice of Freedom where she uses her own educational experiences in connection to pedagogue and activist Paulo Freire and the Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh as well as feminist critical pedagogy.
In the introduction she writes that ”…the will to share the desire to encourage excitement, was to transgress. Not only did it require movement beyond accepted boundaries, but excitement could not be generated without a full recognition of the fact that there could never be an absolute set agenda governing teaching practices. Agendas had to be flexible, had to allow for spontaneous shifts in direction. Students had to be seen in their particularity as individuals […] this excitement could co-exist with and even stimulate serious intellectual and/or academic engagement.
bell hooks sketches out strategies for participatory spaces for the sharing of knowledge. It isn’t enough to talk about things, it also has to be done, by the teachers as well as the students, LIVED in order to succeed in reaching state of practice and contemplation, action and reflection as well as awareness.
Knowledge and teaching situations, in her mind, is something that requires that the teacher see the students “as whole human beings with complex lives and experiences rather than simply seekers after compartmentalized bits of knowledge.” (page 15) hooks contrasts with “… the objectification of the teacher within bourgeois educational structures seemed to denigrate notions of wholeness and uphold the idea of a mind/body split, one that promotes and supports compartmentalization.” (page 16)
Mayday, Friday 1st May, made an already cut-up workshop schedule even more cut-up since the Taksim area in central Istanbul, was blocked off and shuttle buses were cancelled. It became a workshop without workshoppers. Or, more optimistically: it became a distributed workshop where those who could work from home did so. Some tutoring was done via email.
We were wondering if this was a consequence of lack of local knowledge in the planning process of the workshop.
The top story of the day in http://www.hurriyet.com.tr/english/home:
2009 becomes historic year for Turkey’s troubled May Day past
ISTANBUL – The year 2009 is set to become a very important turning point in the history of Turkey’s May Day celebrations that have traditionally been dominated by violence with the government’s declaration of May 1 as an official holiday and the limited opening of a symbolic square for celebrations.
Hurriyet Daily News, 01 May 2009
While starting to edit her recordings one participant said that she was very conscious of the tone, the formatting, how it gives an authority to the knowledge, recognition of knowledge, and what is considered knowledge. Perhaps it’s more in the packaging than in the actual content…
Here’s a bonus gallery from our PixelIST week:
/Erik and Åsa